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Chapter 2 Section C: Australian National Laws and Standards

2C.1: Australian national laws

There are a number of laws that cover the whole of Australia (these are called Commonwealth laws) that are of particular interest to people with mental health conditions in NSW:

Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)

  • makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because they have a disability (or are thought to have a disability) in certain areas of public life including employment, accommodation, education, access to premises, clubs, sport, the provision of goods, services and facilities, buying land, and the administration of Commonwealth law and programs subject to certain exceptions and defences.
  • Disability” under this Act includes mental illness. The Act also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person who is an associate of a person with disability in certain areas of public life including those already mentioned.

This Commonwealth Act and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) prohibit very similar types of discrimination. The laws apply slightly differently and if you feel you have been discriminated against, you may wish to seek legal advice about which law applies in your situation.

Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)

The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth), establishes the Australian Human Rights Commission and sets out its functions and powers. These functions and powers include:

  • investigating and attempting to conciliate complaints that allege disability discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth);
  • investigating, attempting to conciliate and reporting on complaints that the Commonwealth authorities may have engaged in acts or practices that are inconsistent with or contrary to human rights; and
  • giving the Federal Circuit Court of Australia and the Federal Court of Australia the power to hear and determine complaints alleging disability discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) that cannot be conciliated

For more information about laws against discrimination because of mental illness click here .

Disability Services Act 1986 (Cth)

Disability Services Act 1986 (Cth):

  • establishes a framework for the Commonwealth funding of disability employment, advocacy and some other services which are provided by the non-government sector;
  • establishes a framework for the provision of rehabilitation services by the Commonwealth; and
  • establishes a quality assurance system for these services, based on National Disability Standards.

National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Cth)

National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Cth):

  • establishes the National Disability Insurance Scheme;
  • establishes the National Disability Insurance Agency to administer the National Disability Insurance Scheme;
  • sets out how a person can become receive assistance under the National Disability Insurance Scheme; and
  • sets out the types of services and supports available to eligible persons under the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the processes by which these services and supports are planned and implemented.

For further information about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, follow this link.

Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)

The Privacy Act 1988 (Cth):

  • sets out the privacy principles that apply to the collection, retention, use and disclosure of personal information and access to personal information held by the Commonwealth public sector and the private sector. This includes health information;
  • establishes the position of Information Commissioner and sets out the powers and functions of that position. These functions and powers include:
    • providing advice and guidance in relation to the protection of privacy;
    • receiving, investigating, attempting to conciliate and determining complaints about acts or practices that interfere with personal privacy; and
    • providing remedies for breach of these privacy principles.

Click here to read about confidentiality and privacy .

2C.2 Australian national standards and guidelines

There are several standards and guidelines that cover the whole of Australia that are of particular interest to people with mental health conditions in NSW:

National Standards for Mental Health Services 

The National Standards for Mental Health Services are standards that apply to all mental health services across Australia, including clinical services, in-patient units, and community mental health services provided by the public, private and non-government sectors. There are ten standards that deal with a range of issues which include rights and responsibilities, safety, consumer and carer participation, diversity responsiveness, and delivery of care. The Standards include recommendations about how to put the standards into effect and monitor whether or not mental health services are meeting the standards.

You can find a copy of the Standards by following this link

National Standards for Disability Services 

The National Standards for Disability Services are standards that disability employment services and disability advocacy services funded under the Disability Services Act 1986 (Cth) must meet if they are to obtain Commonwealth Government funding. There are now six National Standards which address the rights of service users, their participation and inclusion in community life, individual outcomes, feedback and complaint mechanisms, service access and service management.

You can find a copy of the Standards by following this link

Mental Health: statement of rights and responsibilities

The Mental Health: statement of rights and responsibilities is a national policy document that is endorsed by all Australian Health Ministers. It articulates the rights of persons with mental health conditions and their family members and carers and the responsibilities of government and health and community services, and the community generally in realising those rights. The Statement is divided into eight parts. Parts I and II deal with the inherent dignity, equal protection, non-discrimination, and social inclusion of persons with mental health conditions. Part III deals with the promotion of mental health and the prevention of mental illnesses. Part IV deals with the rights and responsibilities of people with mental health conditions in the mental health service system. Part V deals with the rights and responsibilities of carers and support persons. Part VI deals with the rights and responsibilities of service providers. Part VII deals with the rights and responsibilities of the community generally, and Part VIII deals with the governance of the mental health system.

You can find a copy of the Standards by following this link

Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights 

The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights describes the rights of patients and other people using the Australian health system. These rights are essential to make sure that, wherever and whenever care is provided, it is of high quality and is safe.

The Charter recognises that people receiving care and people providing care all have important parts to play in achieving healthcare rights. The Charter allows patients, consumers, families, carers and services providing health care to share an understanding of the rights of people receiving health care. This helps everyone to work together towards a safe and high-quality health system. A genuine partnership between patients, consumers and providers is important so that everyone achieves the best possible outcomes.

The Charter is based on three Guiding Principles:

  • Everyone has the right to be able to access health care and this right is essential for the Charter to be meaningful;
  • The Australian Government commits to international agreements about human rights which recognise everyone’s right to have the highest possible standard of physical and mental health;
  • Australia is a society made up of people with different cultures and ways of life, and the Charter acknowledges and respects these differences.

The Charter consists of seven basic rights:

  1. Access (access to services that address health care needs);
  2. Safety (safe and high quality health services, provided with professional care, skill and competence);
  3. Respect (care provided respects individuals and their culture, beliefs, values and personal characteristics);
  4. Communication (open, timely and appropriate communication about individual health care that individuals can understand);
  5. Participation (involvement in decision making and choices about individual care and health service planning);
  6. Privacy (privacy is maintained and proper handling of personal health and other information is guaranteed); and
  7. Comment (individuals can comment on or complain about their care and have their concerns dealt with properly and promptly) of basic health care rights of everyone in Australia who gets health care. The Charter was adopted in 2008 by the Health Ministers in all Australian governments.

For more about the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rightsclick here. You can find a copy of these Rights by following this link.

Updated October 21, 2019